"Settle down, son, before you fuck somethin' else up."
Back of a bus named Batman headed south on 95, a tired haze all around.. nearly all the way through a book about being locked inside of oneself, unable to move or speak, and I must admit it’s reminding me of the ease with which I often take those gifts for granted. Airy, atmospheric Eno in my ears and when it fades, my brain, in search of more pleasure, more sonic synergy, picks out pitches of the various hums, rattles and buzzes from the engine and the wheels. Now the bus is an Eno track and some social media site is pulsing in my line of sight too, telling anyone who wants to know what everyone else is up to in the world.. some of these people I’ve known forever in real life, some who I may never meet for whatever reason- and suddenly I’m writing, rambling my way to this: what a life it is, to be able to move like this, to speak to so many people in this great humming mass at every step along the way. On nights like tonight when I worry about what’s going on somewhere else, I have to stop and scold myself, say hey calm down, be patient, take a deep breath and look around and be simply, purely grateful. Now it’s Friday morning and Eno’s Thursday Afternoon is on, though the sound of the road is way up there in the mix and not at all unwelcome. What a dream, what an opportunity, to be alive. To be. A new friend reminded me last night that we are how the stars see themselves. From the middle of the night, thank you for the light.
In an instant world, I often find myself in need of apologizing for my stone-age speed. A good friend, seemingly long-lost, recently referred to me as a ghost and it’s quite clear how easy it is for me to disappear. But I am here, though I’ve found it hard to speak up much lately. Truth is I’ve just spent too much time trying to figure out which “now” to live in.
I wrote the note above to send out into space as we traveled home from this spring’s headlining Andrew McMahon tour, and waited just long enough to throw it out there that I vanished again.
Not a day after we got back, on a darkened porch with the key almost in the door, I found a gun in my face. All my love for sound never prepared me for a bullet buzzing past my ear, and all my love for connecting with strangers never readied me for the butt of a nine millimeter buckling me to the ground while greeted with the growled refrain of “give it up.”
I still don’t have the words to explain even to myself how it’s made me feel- my job, my passion, my entire existence is devoted to being open to what each new acquaintance has to offer, what I can offer them of myself. For longer than I can even remember I’ve wanted to lower my overhead so that I could do more and more of what I love without having to take from anyone, and now I wonder how one person could ever try to estimate the worth of a human life in order to snuff it out and use it to bring their own overhead up.
On one hand, I lost all of my thoughts from the past six months, journals, songs, books that changed my life in which I’d scribbled thoughts I wanted to pass on to friends and family, tour laminates from every road I’ve traveled. On the other, I lost nothing, and gained another reminder that life is too short to waste a second wondering whether the time is right.
The last day of our last run, our driver told me of a moment in his life that now I’ll never forget. In the midst of one of those everyday disasters that come with any life, he lost his temper at the wheel, and found his boss, a blues legend who once drove a king, over his shoulder, saying, “Settle down, son, before you fuck somethin’ else up.”
On a flight from Salt Lake to St. Louis yesterday to start another spin around the states with OAR and Allen Stone, I sat next to a senior in high school about to find his feet back on on the ground in his own next step. We talked about school and success and made our way to free diving, something he’d dabbled in and I knew nothing about. I asked him how you hold your breath that long and he just said, “I guess you just learn that you have to stay calm, especially when it seems like things have gone horribly wrong.” Headphones in, we both sat back as the bird hurtled through the clouds and I burned through a new copy of an old friend, Breakfast of Champions, remembering all the things I thought I knew and leaving them 30,000 feet above the ground. As we touched down I felt light and free for the first time in a while, and I had to hand the book off to this passing stranger as a way of saying thanks for reminding me that we we all have wisdom to offer each other at every turn.. as long as we stay open and aware.
A simple truth that I learn again every day and hope to pass on with every step: strip yourself of all of our possessions, your prejudices, your philosophies, and all that’s left is an unwavering band of light.
Hello again and happy summer. Our tour dates can be found at www.andrewmcmahon.com/tour - hope to see you all soon.
All my love,